A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years, their empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis.
In 2008, the Siegel family was top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts time-share business. To enjoy their good life, he and his engineer turned beauty queen trophy wife, Jackie, were building the largest single family private home in America. Suddenly, both the US economy and Westgate were rocked by the devastating sub-prime mortgage collapse. In the new economic reality with the business teetering on ruin, we follow the Siegels as they struggle to scale down their grotesquely ostentatious lifestyle. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
I normally run a mile from real-life documentaries like this but ghoulishly fascinated by the story-line here, I found myself rubber-necking this car-crash of a family saga from start to finish. An allegory of the burst bubble of the latter-day "greed is good" dynasty, we follow the progress of billionaire David Siegel's self-confessed riches to rags story as he and his sprawling, dysfunctional family struggle to adjust to rain after the sunshine years as his billion-dollar timeshare empire crumbles as the credit crunch bites.
So, instead of the no doubt originally intended homage to Mammon, as Siegel and his plastic, boob-enhanced ex-Mrs America "trophy-wife" (named as such by her own daughter!) airily plan to build the biggest private house in America (going from a mere 18 to 30 bathrooms in the process), we get a much darker tale, as Siegel retreats away in his dressing-gown from his young family into his den, desperately making calls which he hopes will return his opulent lifestyle to him and his family.
His wife, Jacqueline, the erstwhile title character of the movie is similarly seen changing from boasting about wearing ostrich-feather Gucci pants to suffering her husband's testiness over leaving too many house-lights on, while still undergoing her periodic face-peel and Botox injections, hardening her face into a mask, ill-serving the emotional traumas she's obviously experiencing.
As a modern-day morality tale on the old maxim of be careful what you wish for, it could hardly be bettered as not one of "David's Friends", prominently pictured in his household come to his rescue as his business empire crumbles and leaves his prestigious West Gates luxury building in Las Vegas as another white elephant totem to excess.
As usual with American documentaries like this, it's hard to take your eyes off the mess you're witnessing. The film doesn't seek to pity the family's plight but does inadvertently lampoon its subject although it has to be said most of the damage is self-inflicted.
Proof, if it were still needed, that pride surely comes before a fall, although here the fall is cliff-sized.
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